Twenty-two years ago today, 18-year-old Angie Raye Dodge was killed as she slept in her upstairs apartment in the sleepy town of Idaho Falls, Idaho.
At the time of Angie’s murder, DNA had become a household term thanks to the spectacle that was the O.J. Simpson murder trial in Los Angeles. Simpson’s 1995 acquittal should have awakened every investigator in the country as to the importance of DNA evidence, and the collection and handling thereof. But some still slept.
Idaho Falls Police Department
The police were overwhelmed with the investigation. None of the investigators in their small agency was prepared for the complexity of such a case, nor were any of them experienced to any significant degree in the field of homicide investigation. One of the two lead detectives, Jared Fuhriman—no relation to LAPD’s infamous Mark Fuhrman (note the different spellings)—had been a school resource officer (SRO) and had almost no investigative experience at all.
During the course of their investigation, the police had focused on 20-year-old Christopher Tapp. Without going into great detail, the detectives coerced a false confession from Tapp by violating every single principle and law regulating interrogations and confessions, using threats of force and promises of leniency. Tapp foolishly trusted Fuhriman, as he knew him well from Fuhriman’s days as an SRO. Tapp eventually confessed to being present when the crime was committed, and then later confessed to having taken a small part in the actual murder. He would later recant his confession.
The problem with the confession was that Tapp never provided a single detail of the attack, the crime scene, or any other pertinent part of the case, that the investigators hadn’t first introduced to him.
The bigger problem—for investigators—was that the killer had ejaculated on Angie’s body, and Christopher Tapp was not the donor of that DNA source. There were several additional sources of DNA identified from trace evidence left at the scene, and each of those DNA profiles was attributed to the same donor as that of the semen.
In 1989, author Joseph Wambaugh published “The Blooding,” a true crime book which chronicles the details of the first time DNA was used to solve a murder. In 1986, 15-year-old Dawn Ashworth left her friend’s home in the small village of Narborough, Leicestershire to walk to her nearby home in the village called Enderby. She never arrived home and after two days of searching, her body was found between the two villages. There had been another murder two years prior, that of 15-year-old Lynda Mann. Police worked on the theory that both crimes were committed by the same individual. Both girls had been raped.
During the course of that investigation, police focused on a 17-year-old boy who seemed to know more about the murder of Ashworth than the general public had been told. He was soon considered a suspect. He confessed to the killing and then later recanted his confession. He had always denied killing the first girl; it was the second murder to which he confessed. The boy was charged with the murder of Dawn Ashworth.
In that case, the police contacted Alec Jeffreys, a British geneticist who had recently developed “genetic fingerprinting,” a result of his discovering a way to show variations between individuals’ DNA. Jeffreys was asked to assist in the investigation of the two murders. He did, and he was able to determine that both girls were killed by the same offender, and that person was not the boy who had confessed and been charged. DNA ultimately solved that case. I won’t spend more time on that case here, but it is a fascinating story and I highly recommend The Blooding.
Similar to the case in England, investigators homed in on the wrong man in Angie Dodge’s murder. A friend of Christopher Tapp had been arrested in Nevada for rape, and Investigators rightly shifted their focus onto him, and Tapp. But during a series of interrogations with Tapp, they coerced a false confession from him. The police lied to Tapp and told him that his friend had not only confessed to killing Angie, but that he had also implicated Tapp in the murder.
For hours Tapp adamantly denied being involved until investigators assured him that if he cooperated and admitted he was there, he would go free. Tapp began confessing, being led by police and agreeing to whatever they told him had happened. They even told him he had likely suppressed his memory of the terrible incident, but he should trust them because they would be able to prove he was there and he would get the death penalty.
However, while these confessions were being obtained, tests revealed that the DNA collected from the crime scene did not belong to Tapp or to his friend who had been arrested in Nevada. Rather than seeing they were on the wrong track, the cops decided there must have been a third person at the scene, and it was this third person who was the donor of the DNA. They would never admit to being wrong, and they were blinded by their egos and inexperience.
At the time of this writing, the police have still not found a match to the DNA evidence left at the scene.
The Crime Scene
For an experienced homicide investigator, it is difficult to believe there was more than one suspect at the crime scene. There has never been a shred of physical evidence to link anyone else to that small room, and it is unreasonable to believe that three people could be involved in such a violent murder without leaving evidence of their presence behind.
But the more their case fell apart, the harder the police ramped up the pressure on Tapp and insisted that he tell the truth about who was really with him, who the “third” person was.
Angie’s case was a sexual murder. It is a very rare occurrence that more than one offender is ever involved in that type of case. The police are convinced that there is a drug connection. I have never seen a sexual component involved in a drug hit, nor have I heard of any such occurrence. Remember, someone came into her apartment in the middle of the night and attacked her as she slept.
Lastly, on this topic, it has been 22 years. If three people were involved in this murder, and especially if it had been drug-related, there is no way possible that the three of them kept this a secret. Many people would know about the killing, and in those 22 years, someone would have used that knowledge to avoid going to prison on other matters. That is guaranteed.
Benjamin Franklin famously said, “Three can keep a secret if two are dead.”
A Travesty of Justice
Eventually—and even more dumbfounding and quite frightening—Tapp was convicted of Angie Dodge’s murder by a jury of “his peers” in Idaho Falls. All of the tainted evidence against Tapp was allowed into the trial, yet prosecutors withheld exculpatory evidence including videotapes of the coerced confessions.
The Idaho Innocence Project
It was nearly twenty years later when the Idaho Innocence Project began fighting on Tapp’s behalf. In doing so, they stirred somewhat of a hornet’s nest in Eastern Idaho. By now, the infamous Jared Fuhriman had moved on from the police department to become the mayor of Idaho Falls, and then retired.
Interestingly, Fuhriman now claims to suffer from memory loss and says he is unable to recall any parts of the Tapp investigation.
The appellate courts refused to hear new arguments in the case as all appeals had been previously entertained. But with the Idaho Innocence Project fighting for Tapp, the media began to swarm, and the small town and its dirty little secret became national news.
A Cold Case Investigation
My involvement stemmed from being hired by a New York-based production company that set out to make a documentary about the case. I was tasked to conduct a cold case investigation while they produced their show. The production team was enthusiastic about solving the case, but unfortunately, their budget did not allow for a complete reinvestigation. Once the production was completed, I no longer had a client and was forced to move on with a lot of work left to be done.
Tapp was released from prison during the time we were investigating this case. The state offered him a deal which gave him his freedom but allowed the state to never admit he was wrongly prosecuted and convicted. It was clearly a move designed to extinguish the media firestorm without admitting fault and to protect the city from liability.
There were numerous mistakes made by the police from the onset of their investigation. That is understandable, given the lack of experience they have to draw from. The tragic part is that in light of the evidence and theories presented by true experts and experienced investigators, the Idaho Falls investigators still refuse to recognize their errors and admit their faults.
To this day, the authorities in Idaho Falls will swear that Tapp was there that night as Angie was killed, in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
This blog is but a snapshot of a complex case and its tragic course. A book could and perhaps should be written on the matter. (No, I have no intention of writing it.)
If you care to watch the documentary, it is now airing on the Starz network, and it is called Wrong Man. Several cases comprise this series, and the Angie Dodge case has not yet been aired as of the time of this writing. I have not seen it and I have no idea if it is good or not, though I suspect it will be interesting if nothing else.
UPDATE: The case is now solved — READ ABOUT IT HERE
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I’m sure since you’re in Idaho and it’s everywhere now, it looks like they got him. My question, now that they found Angie Dodge’s real killer, will this take it off ChrisTapp’s record? They ruined his life and I believe he should sue the crooked IF police for everything. Hate that place. Grew up there and left at 18 and never looked back. I am sickened what this man did to this poor sweet girl and what her Mom has gone through. But another life was ruined too. That being Chris Tapp’s.
I am thrilled at the result but I was sickened watching the IFPD congratulate themselves on a job well done. I am writing a blog for next week as a follow up to this one. I hope you will read it and comment if you feel compelled to do so. Thank you, Vicki. Danny
Was Usry cleared by DNA testing ? Or cleared to 87%
Usry is 100% cleared by DNA.
They found the murderer of Angie Dodge, Brian L. Dripps. DNA matched and he confessed.
He and his family were completely exonerated and the DNA lab believed that it was an 87.7% chance that the DNA did not come from an Ursy family member.
I taped this particular episode I’m a 100 percent that the detective Brown and Jared killed this girl if I have
I retired from LASD in 1983, and after a couple of false starts, I was employed by the ISP as their Questioned Document Examiner. At that time, the ISP had a single latent fingerprint guy, retired from the Washington DC Metro PD, and since I had had about 10 yrs in latents at LASD, I was nominated to assist him as needed. In the late 80’s IFPD and Bonneville County SO had a wave of 187s (3 or 4 ), pretty surely by the same perpetrator(s). When we went to assist them with the latent FP work, we found that the two depts, located about 75 feet apart in the same building, were not talking to each other, about the respective cases (2 in the county, 1 or 2 in the city). We made a couple of trips between the two depts, and then told them to untwist their panties and talk directly to each other. Perps were caught in Elko, NV a day or two later. In another notable case, a PD in western ID had a reserve officer who had gone off the deep end, and the decision was made to fire the guy. Only problem was, the guy was a really bad guy, and nobody wanted to tell him. They arranged to have a group of regular officers to be at the station and called the soon to be ex-reserve in to make the notification. The result was a shoot-out in the new station, and the ex was dispatched via the coroner’s office. All that said, I really enjoyed my time there (10+years), and met many excellent cops there. I wish I still lived there.
Thanks for the comment, Jack. I am very familiar with the reserve officer case, a sad and obviously very questionable manner in which it was handled. As I recall, the reason they brought that officer (deputy) into the station was to arrest him behind allegations an ex made about child abuse. Maybe I’m wrong. Anyway, from what I have heard about the incident, it sounds as if it could have been handled differently.
As far as the cops out east that doesn’t surprise me. Angie’s case was very poorly handled from many different directions.
Just watched the dateline documentary on this, I can’t believe Jared Fuhriman was never suspected of having involvement in the murder. Looks very guilty when he was interviewed with the other cop, also was certain that Tapp was guilty but was also the one leading him into the confession!! Very dodgy… get him DNA tested.
I also agree with Gary that Det Fuhrimen should be DNA tested in this case. I was convinced of his guilt also. Has he been tested yet. If not, why not?
Hey have they looked into sing familial DNA? Like what was used to find the killer in Sacramento? Whoever killed Angie has killed or raped before. How often do they run the DNA info thru CODIS? It seems like this doesn’t have to be a cold case anymore. I believe it was only 1 offender not 2 or 3. I hope her mom can know what happened before she passes.
Ok so now I have read where they tried using familial DNA in this case and it didn’t work. Now I don’t know what to think. I just hope they find this killer.
I do too, Monica, but I have little faith in that agency. When you are so arrogant that you reject help from outside sources who have far more experience in such matters, you have put the blinders on and set yourself up for failure. That is the case out there.
i am so glad to hear someone speak out about out shady cops around here.. i have lived it . i
Person of interest found by a familial search should be cleared by a proper DNA test. Should remain a person of interest until so cleared.
The ONE thing/question that sticks in my mind after finishing the Wrong Man docu is this;
When Carol Dodge recalled her last conversation with her daughter. She said. – if my memory is accurate as I can’t re-watch. – that her daughter told her “I did something stupid”.
My gut instantly said, uh oh – she either connected with a “bad” person or witnessed a person doing a bad thing. Then, later, when the phone service technician mentioned the victim’s concern about harassing phone calls she had received, i thought, okay, she knew her murderer. Someone possibly had come on to her and either through rejection, or misread signals, focused their rage on her.
Again, I couldn’t review the program, so if this has no value, I apologize. But regardless, thank you for the venue to respond
Hi Jetta, thank you for your comments. Yes, you have all of that correct. Many possibilities exist and those two elements have caused much speculation and investigation. I do believe the killer knew Angie if only by a brief and likely chance encounter. Or, it was a person who had watched her. A neighbor, or visitor of a neighbor. Someone who knew she was in that apartment alone that night.
Has Carol tried contacting the VIDOCQ(?) SOCIETY? They do amazing work on cold cases.
I don’t believe she has, Thom. But there have been many great investigators who have reviewed the case and who have tried to steer Idaho Falls PD in the right direction. They will have none of it. Any outside review and investigation will be met with hostility, as we found. While there investigating, I came across witnesses that the PD investigator had told to not speak with me. So, that limits what an outsider can do. They (IFPD) will stop at nothing to keep this case from being solved, as it will be the biggest embarrassment of the century for any law enforcement agency when they see how far off target they are. Also, it will cost the city a fortune in civil litigation, I would suspect.
Thank you for your comment. I pray they solve it and agree it should have been solved long ago instead of using Chris Tapp as a scapegoat. I appreciate your honesty and respect your insight. Thank you again.
Being from IF, I know this case well. My aunt knows Carol Dodge. I did not live there during the time of the murder or since but have followed it.
I am still appalled that the police got away with what they did to Chris Tapp. I also will always believe the “Mike” he refers to in his interrogation is the same Mike that was brought in to the case because of familial DNA. They say no DNA matched his but will always wonder. My Mom and I have discussed this many times. Even when she was a child, she is close to 80, there was talk of police corruption in IF. I have heard stories too but this case takes the case. I don’t understand how they are solving all of these cold cases with familial DNA but this “Mike”, who inserted himself in the case, just happened to be going through IF the time of the murder, and happened to make a slasher film that matched details of the Angie Dodge murder, just was eliminated so quickly. As I said, my aunt knows Carol Dodge and saw her recently. She’s now in a wheelchair and cried and told my aunt she just wanted to know before she died. I guess I would like to know your take on Mike and a police coverup. Could they have covered up matching DNA? Too many things are too coincidental with Mike. Of course they will NEVER admit they blew it and of course, the plea deal takes away any chance of Chris Tapp getting any money for all those years he sat behind bars as an innocent man.
Hi Vicki, thank you for your comments. It is certainly frightening what happened out there. As for Mike Usry, I am certain he has no involvement in Angie’s death. He has been very cooperative with law enforcement and those of us who have investigated the case since, even providing a DNA sample to the FBI.
This case should be solved. I pray someday it will be. It needs to be completely reinvestigated, and all DNA needs to be re-evaluated. There were so many mistakes made by the IFPD that it’s hard to trust that the DNA tests were handled with any degree of competency.
I’d be EXTREMELY interested in hearing what an official from the BSU of the FBI would have to say after looking closely at Angie’s murder. Has anyone thought to ask for their assistance? They have the experience and knowledge necessary to hopefully solve this poor girl’s murder, and give her family the answers that they deserve, not to mention, NEED! SWALLOW YOUR DARN PRIDE AND GET IT DONE, IDAHO FALLS! You should be EXTREMELY embarrassed & remorseful for all of your shameful behavior all of these years!
Hi Terri-Anne, thank you for your comment. I have consulted with a retired agent from the Behavioral Sciences Unit of the FBI during my review of the case. He and I were in agreement on several theories, all of which starkly contrast the ridiculous theory of the investigators from Idaho Falls. And that is, this was a one-perpetrator, sexual assault murder. They will never listen to outsiders, and they will never admit their faults and mistakes. It is terribly unjust. Thank you.